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Response to Benton D Struckcheon (Reply #44)

Fri Mar 8, 2013, 07:08 PM

46. Your HRW's reputation precedes your reference, of COURSE.

Venezuela

Human Rights Watch's work in Venezuela became the subject of controversy in late 2008. In September 2008, Venezuela expelled two HRW staff accused of "anti-state activities"[35] Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said "These groups, dressed up as human rights defenders, are financed by the United States. They are aligned with a policy of attacking countries that are building new economic models."[36] On December 17, 2008 an open letter was sent to the HRW Board of Directors in response to an HRW report, entitled, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela.[37] 118 scholars from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, México, the United States, the U.K., Venezuela, and other countries publicly criticized HRW for a perceived bias against the government of Venezuela. The open letter criticized the report by stating that it "does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility."[38] The letter also criticized the lead author of the report, Jose Miguel Vivanco, for his "political agenda", and called on Mr. Vivanco to discuss or debate his claims in "any public forum of his choosing".[6] Hugh O'Shaughnessy accused HRW of using false and misleading information, and said the report was "put together with the sort of know-nothing Washington bias..."[39] Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch responded, claiming the letter misrepresents "both the substance and the source material of the report.".[19] Tom Porteous, Human Rights Watch's London director, replied saying that O'Shaughnessy "...not only fails to provide any evidence for these allegations" but that "...more seriously he misrepresents HRW's positions in his apparent determination to undermine our well earned international reputation for accuracy and impartiality."[20]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Human_Rights_Watch

[center]~~~~~[/center]
A statement by the AVSN
September 30, 2008

As a broad network of organisations and individuals that has closely studied the significant changes in Venezuelan society since 1998 – including organising eight study tours to Venezuela involving more than 150 Australians from diverse backgrounds - we are obliged to respond to the biases, distortions and lies contained in the Human Rights Watch report “A Decade Under Chavez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela” released in September 2008.

The key theme of the report - that “Ten years ago, Chavez promoted a new constitution that could have significantly improved human rights in Venezuela. But rather than advancing rights protections, his government has since moved in the opposite direction, sacrificing basic guarantees in pursuit of its own political agenda” - bears no relation to the reality in Venezuela today.

Here are some facts:

Political freedom

The report’s claim that “Discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chavez presidency” is patently untrue.

All political parties in Venezuela, the majority of which are in opposition, operate without any constraints placed upon them. They organise public meetings and demonstrations, speak regularly in the media, stand candidates in all elections, hold party events, publish books and pamphlets, and disseminate (anti-government) propaganda in the streets and through the media – all without any government sanctions.

There are no political prisoners of any kind in Venezuela. On the contrary, despite the opposition’s persistent efforts to use violent and unconstitutional means to overthrow the government, the Chavez leadership has responded with tolerance. In 2007, for example, Chavez pardoned opponents who backed the failed 2002 coup against his democratically elected government, saying, "We want there to be a strong ideological and political debate - but in peace”.

More:
http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org/?q=node/280

[center]~~~~~[/center]
More Than 100 Experts Question Human Rights Watch's Venezuela Report
Dec 17 2008

In an open letter to the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch, over 100 experts on Latin America criticized the organization's recent report on Venezuela, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela, saying that it "does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility." The signers include leading academic specialists from universities in the United States, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and a number of state universities, and academic institutions in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, México, the U.K., Venezuela and other countries. The letter cites Jose Miguel Vivanco, lead author of the report, saying "We did the report because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone…"[1], as evidence of its political agenda. The letter also criticizes the report for making unsubstantiated allegations, and that some of the sources that Human Rights Watch relied on in the report are not credible.

"By publishing such a grossly flawed report, and acknowledging a political motivation in doing so, Mr. Vivanco has undermined the credibility of an important human rights organization," the letter states.

The letter notes that numerous sources cited in the report - including opposition newspapers El Universal and El Nacional, opposition group Súmate, and a mentally unstable opposition blogger - have been known to fabricate information, making it "difficult for most readers to know which parts of the report are true and which aren't." The letter also argues that the Human Rights Watch report makes sweeping allegations based on scant evidence. For example, its allegation of discrimination in government services is based on just one person whose nephew claimed she was denied medicine from a government program.

The full text of the letter follows:

December 16, 2008

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

To the Board of Directors,

We write to call your attention to a report published by Human Rights Watch that does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility. The document, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela, appears to be a politically motivated essay rather than a human rights report. Indeed, the lead author of the report, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stated as much when he told the press just a few days after its publication, "We did the report because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone…"[2]

More:
https://nacla.org/node/5334

[center]~~~~~[/center]
Has Human Rights Watch Joined Venezuela’s Opposition?
by Gregory Wilpert

It looks like the cat is out of the bag: Human Rights Watch has formally joined Venezuela’s opposition. Well, not quite; it is not a formally consummated deal yet, since their latest report does appeal to President Chavez by saying, “the criticisms offered (in the report) (should) not be mischaracterized as a partisan attack.”

Archives | Caracas (Venezuela) | 21 June 2004

hen why has just about everyone who supports the Chavez government taken the latest Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Venezuela, about the country’s “Judicial Independence under Siege,” as precisely the opposite of what HRW says it is, as a “partisan attack”? Is it because they do not want to deal with the real issues, as HRW’s America’s Director José Miguel Vivanco suggests, or is it because the report actually is a partisan attack - one that is being launched just in time to turn national and international public opinion against the Chavez government as it faces an unprecedented recall referendum a mere two months from now?

This report is just the most recent and most revealing partisan attack against the Chavez government. It begins by basically equating the April 2002 coup attempt with the new Supreme Court law when it says, “When Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías faced a coup d’état in April 2002, advocates of democracy in Venezuela and abroad roundly condemned the assault on the country’s constitutional order. Today Venezuela faces another constitutional crisis that could severely impair its already fragile democracy. This time, though, the threat comes from the government itself.” It ends by making demands that are typical of Venezuela’s opposition-demands that the government cannot possibly fulfill, such as suspending the new law, which has already taken effect. Then, since such a demand will not be fulfilled, the report, just as is typical of Venezuela’s opposition, takes the issue to international bodies, such as the World Bank and the OAS.

Valid criticism negated by relentless polemic

The HRW report correctly points out that Venezuela’s judicial system has pretty much always been in very poor shape. According to the report, “In terms of public credibility, the system was bankrupt” before Chavez came to power. The report then goes on to describe the efforts of the Chavez government to fundamentally revamp the judicial system, which succeeded to a limited extent, but then fizzled and eventually died.

The report, however, blames the failure on the country’s “political polarization under Chavez,” saying that “country has grown increasingly polarized in response to President Chávez’s policies and style of governance.” This is one of the points where HRW director Vivanco should not be surprised that Vice-President Rangel considers the report to be a partisan attack. According to the pro-government version events, it is the opposition that has caused polarization by not accepting Chavez as the legitimately elected president and by launching a media campaign against the Chavez government. To unilaterally put all of the blame for polarization in Chavez’ shoes, shows quite clearly where one’s sympathies lie, regardless of one’s position on judicial reform.

More:
http://www.voltairenet.org/article121200.html

[center]~~~~~[/center]
Smoke and Mirrors: An Analysis of Human Rights Watch's Report on Venezuela
Written by Gregory Wilpert
Tuesday, 21 October 2008 04:30

The September 18, 2008 Human Rights Watch report, "A Decade Under Chavez," raises a few problems with regard to the protection of political rights in Venezuela, but the few places where it is on target are almost completely drowned in a sea of de-contextualization, trumped-up accusations, and a clear and obvious bias in favor of the opposition and against the government.

Meta-Criticism

First, the focus of the report is on five specific issues relating to political rights (political discrimination, judicial independence, freedom of speech, labor organizing, and civil society organizing), completely leaving out other important political rights (such as the right to vote) and all social and economic rights. That the report has this narrow focus displays HRW's bias towards the better off, who already enjoy their full economic and social rights and are thus in a better position to exercise political rights. Also, it leads readers to believe that the Chavez government has, as a whole, made no progress in improving the human rights of Venezuelans—a clearly false proposition on almost every human rights front.

Second, throughout the report HRW fails to present incidents or policies in their proper context, which makes it more difficult to understand how and why certain things happen in Venezuela. As a result, by lacking this context, readers interpret the issues that the report discusses through the lens of their own prejudices or the false media impressions of Venezuela, such as the widespread images of Chavez the "caudillo" or "dictator" of Venezuela.

Third, the timing of the report's release was terrible, a mere two months before a major electoral contest, the regional elections. Since this is the third time HRW has released a report shortly before an electoral contest, the suspicion that HRW is actively trying to influence these events cannot be dismissed.

More:
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/venezuela-archives-35/1537-smoke-and-mirrors-an-analysis-of-human-rights-watchs-report-on-venezuela

[center]~~~~~[/center]
Scholars Respond to HRW’s Kenneth Roth’s Riposte on Venezuelan Human Rights
BY COHA Staff
– Posted on January 13, 2009

~snip~
(1) Mr. Roth writes: “Another one of your main accusations is that our report makes sweeping allegations that are not backed up by supporting facts or in some cases even logical arguments. . .

“The primary example you use to attempt to back this accusation is our conclusion that discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chávez presidency. To make your point, you isolate a single case of a woman purportedly denied medicines on political grounds, and claim falsely that it is the only alleged instance of discrimination in government services cited in the entire 230-page report. We actually provide three such cases that we documented ourselves, while also referencing a 2005 report by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights that concluded, on the basis of hundreds of cases of alleged discrimination, that a new discriminatory pattern in the awarding of work and public services had emerged in Venezuela.”

Our response:

First, let’s clarify what is at stake here. Imagine that a human rights organization issued a report claiming that the Bush Administration has discriminated against political opponents among people who applied for Medicaid, food stamps, and other federal government entitlement programs. Now imagine that the only evidence they provided for this claim consisted of one allegation by the nephew of someone who applied for Medicare benefits, and possibly two other similar allegations. No one would take such a report seriously. But that is exactly what Mr. Roth is defending with regard to HRW’s report on Venezuela.

We could not find the other two cases of alleged discrimination that Mr. Roth refers to above. However it should be clear to anyone who knows arithmetic that the difference between one and three allegations of discrimination in a set of programs that has served millions of people is not significant.

As for the 2005 report by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights cited by Mr. Roth, it contains no documented cases, nor does it refer to any documented cases, of even alleged discrimination in the provision of government services.[1]

Thus, the HRW report neither provides nor cites any significant evidence for its sweeping generalization that “Citizens who exercised their right to call for the referendum– invoking one of the new participatory mechanisms championed by Chávez during the drafting of the 1999 Constitution– were threatened with retaliation and blacklisted from some government jobs and services.” (p. 10, italics added).

As we noted in our original letter, “This is outrageous and completely indefensible.”

If there were no other errors in the entire HRW report, this one enormously important unsubstantiated allegation would justify everything that we said with regard to the report not meeting “minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility.”

It is clear from his response that Mr. Roth has not taken this matter seriously. We therefore renew our appeal to the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch to intervene and correct this report.

More:
http://www.coha.org/scholars-respond-to-hrw-directors-riposte-on-venezuelan-human-rights/

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